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CPU upgrade on an old Dell

Last response: in CPUs
April 5, 2006 11:15:29 PM

I'm currently running a Dell (Dimension 4600 for those interested) and I'm planning on upgrading the cpu from a 2.4GHz Pentium 4 (Northwood core, 533 MHz fsb, 512k L2 cache) to a 3.0GHz with fsb800 and HT. This is a socket 478

I have a few concerns I'd like to have cleared up:

-My current cpu is passively cooled with a large aluminium heatsink ducked to my exhaust fan. It doesn't seem to me that this cooling will be appropriate for the new CPU. I doubt I'll be able to find the Northwood 3Ghz so it'll probably be the Prescott (which I think has the Pent. 4 3.0EGhz designation)

-Concerning changing the cooling, if needed, Dell uses unconventional brackets to mount heatsinks which is very inconveniant.

-I'm also concerned about the power usage. I'm pretty sure that the Prescott will drain MUCH more power than my current Northwood and I'm not too sure my PSU(probably cheap) can handle it.

Thank you.

More about : cpu upgrade dell

April 6, 2006 12:22:53 AM

The good folks at the Dell Community forum seem to think that a Prescott will work in the 4600...

However a few said that indeed you will need better cooling and apparently Dell has a stronger cooling setup you can buy for that rig.

As for the power requirements, how old is your computer? You say you have a 2.4 processor... I saw specs that the 4600 came with a 2.8... If you have an early version or something, you may have difficulty - Dell really isn't very helpful with this type of question.
April 6, 2006 12:28:10 AM

It's from summer 2003.

Had my current specs but with 512MB of ram. I bought 2 more sticks later on.
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April 6, 2006 12:31:14 AM

Lol. Tell A DELL that 2000Mhz X 2 Can easly Beat Anything that DELL and Offer Even if it costs 10000$ and they'll Say "Are you crazy?, and just mension it's a AMD. And they'll ask "what's an AMD? then pause for 2 minutes, And then they'll scream "F*** You!" and Hang up.
April 6, 2006 2:56:42 AM

Well, it's an 865G chipset motherboard, so it certainly can support the 800 FSB speed. The only two questions really are 1) will the BIOS work with the newer CPU and 2) will your board power circuitry and power supply handle the load. Sounds like others have done it successfully...

Oh yeah... and can you keep that Prescott cooker cool! :p 
Personally, I'd try it with your current HS and fan combination and see what the temps do. Then decide if you need to go get more cooling. If you don't load it up 100% all the time, your current cooling may be OK. However if you are into distributed computing or other heavy uses (gaming), then it may run a bit too hot.

Can you just put a better fan in back of the duct?
April 6, 2006 3:32:33 AM

Yes you will definately need better cooling. Dell cooling although very quiet, sucks.
April 6, 2006 4:08:19 AM

Although you may be interested in a new cpu it wouldn't be a big jump in performance. You have a 9800pro and that may be where you need to upgrade. i moved from a 9700pro to a AIW x800xt and got a huge jump in performance. If you check here

You can see the frame rate increase is only 15.1fps. When considering it's going from 128.6 to 143.7, it's not that huge a difference.

If you get a new video card the new high end games will run great. If you can add more memory it will also help. but 1gig is pretty great anyways. If you can afford to upgrade the video card and the cpu it might be good. but for games the video card should be first.
April 6, 2006 4:23:03 AM

Lol. Tell A DELL that 2000Mhz X 2 Can easly Beat Anything that DELL and Offer Even if it costs 10000$ and they'll Say "Are you crazy?, and just mension it's a AMD. And they'll ask "what's an AMD? then pause for 2 minutes, And then they'll scream "F*** You!" and Hang up.

Ah yes, another worthless post that's about as good as taking a nasty dump and finding out, you have no toilet paper :roll:
April 6, 2006 5:29:16 AM

I swapped out the heatsink on my 4600; it's not that bad, really. However, it usually requires removing the motherboard for a few minutes, long enough to unscrew the old heatsink bracket and replace it with a new standard socket-478 bracket. You will be dumping the fan shroud, but you may be able to use the stock fan to vent the case if you turn it around. Or remove it too and replace with a standard case fan, venting out. Another poster said to try your stock heatsink -that's good advice, but even if your temps are too high, you can leave the stock heatsink in place; dump the shroud and screw a large fan from another heatsink/fan directly onto the top of the fins using #8 x 2" screws.

By the way, your 4600 motherboard is pretty much an Intel 865PERL, but with a non-standard ATX backplate connector arrangement (thanks, dell and intel) and custom DELL BIOS. The power supply, unlike some other DELLS, uses a standard ATX-20 + 4 (not ATX-24!) connector/pinout, so at way over 100watts for the CPU, you should replace the stock unit for your Prescott. Oh, and I'll post if I successfully reburn the BIOS with the PERL version...
April 6, 2006 5:29:57 AM

Hey are you the same xxDracoxx that I used to play Hell unleashed with?
April 6, 2006 5:34:14 AM

Lol. Tell A DELL that 2000Mhz X 2 Can easly Beat Anything that DELL and Offer Even if it costs 10000$ and they'll Say "Are you crazy?, and just mension it's a AMD. And they'll ask "what's an AMD? then pause for 2 minutes, And then they'll scream "F*** You!" and Hang up.

Please get drunk and go out and play in the freeway.

This type of response was completely unnecessary for someone who definitely has a legitimate question / issue.
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April 6, 2006 3:58:52 PM

You might be able to find a NW 3.0c or 3.2, they are listed on Pricewatch for about $200 or less last time I checked a week ago or two...

I'd avoid the Prescott socket 478 versions if at all possible...
April 6, 2006 4:28:32 PM

I agree, I'd stay with northwoods if you can.

I did see a 2.8/800 FSB w/HT for 107 bucks,
they also had 3.0/800 FSB w/HT northy for 154 bucks.

My board won't support prescotts, but I guess it don't matter :lol: 
April 6, 2006 5:08:29 PM

Personally, I don't think it's even worth buying a new CPU for your computer. It really depends on what you use your computer for. If it's for games, then graphics is more important, not the CPU. Also, upgrade wise, your system will run to its end in 1-2 years, so I would recomend saving for a completely new setup. But if you really really want to waste your money, just tell us what you want to upgrade for such as playing games or multimedia stuff.
April 6, 2006 5:25:47 PM

Not sure how to rate cost vs speed on this, to see if it would be justify spending the money.

Personally, I think it would be worth going from 533 to 800 FSB.

I say that for me, since I can OC. On the Dell.. pretty much stuck.

But it should be worth the added performance 533 vs 800 vs buying a new setup. It would be the cheaper route.
April 6, 2006 5:50:06 PM

Just save some money and buy a new PC when you've got a little more. An end-of-life Dell Special will still run under $500, while a new 3.06GHz processor will run half that all by itself.

Just be patient, IMHO, upgrading ANY Dell is a laudable waste of money. If you do decide to do it, you might end up spending another $100 on cooling and power, keep that in mind.
April 6, 2006 5:56:14 PM

Concerning your cooling, I've found that 1U Server Socket 478 coolers work great in the Dell. Just make sure it comes with a mounting bracket, and you should have no problems. You will have to remove the motherboard, of course, to get the mounting bracket under the socket, but that was truly a minor inconvenience, in my case.

As to the PSU, replacement PSUs for Dells are tough to find, and expensive when you do, but they can be well worth it. If you're upgrading anything beyond the processor (i.e. better video, additional drives, etc.), I would strongly recommend replacing it, as it would then be the weakest link in your system.

April 7, 2006 10:54:27 AM

Hey are you the same xxDracoxx that I used to play Hell unleashed with?

No, I am not
April 7, 2006 10:50:03 PM

One caviat to replacing your Dell heatsink and fan:

If you remove the case fan (the one that was also cooling your CPU via the big green duct), you will suffer from an ugly BIOS error everytime you boot. Simply plugging the new CPU fan into the case fan mobo power connector will not solve the issue. Dell uses the third pin on that connector in a non-standard manner (signal if fan is spinning vs not spinning at all), not as a normal tachy pin (signal changes/ sec = fan speed), so it only works with a Dell fan (std fans will spin, but with BIOS error). The solution is simple, either jumper the third pin to the + or - pin of that connector (google to see which one, I don't recall) and run your fan off of a drive power connector or plug your CPU fan into the mobo connector, clip the tach wire and use a vamp tap into the + or - as appropriate. Either way, you cannot use the tachy on the fan as the mobo does not support it. If the PERL BIOS Flash works, it may reprogram the usage of that pin, too....

My best solution is to leave the case fan in place and connected to the mobo connector (turn the fan around to exhaust air from the case!). Then connect your new CPU fan to a drive power molex.